Salisbury-based Food Lion has a new logo and a new approach to winning customers, the company said Wednesday, as the grocer works to regain its position in a crowded grocery market.
The company plans to add more varieties of many items to its stores and extensively remodel its 1,100 stores, as well as train its 63,000 employees in a new, more customer-centric way of doing business.
“For our customers to trust us, they need to be able to go into any Food Lion store and have a consistently great experience,” said Food Lion CEO Beth Newlands Campbell. “This is why our efforts to improve customer service and ensure our products are always fresh are so important.”
Food Lion, a subsidiary of Belgian grocery conglomerate Delhaize, is still working to overcome its past struggles. In 2012, the company closed 126 underperforming stores, including its Bloom brand, as it tried to strengthen its financial profile. And last year, Delhaize sold 155 stores under the Harveys, Sweetbay and Reid’s brands to rival Bi-Lo.
The company previously said Food Lion has implemented new procedures to make sure its fresh food is fresh, and cut prices on core items to lure customers back.
In December, Food Lion opened a new pilot in Concord for its future stores. The new store format features more dinner options in the deli, a walk-in cooler for its produce department and new registers with bigger screens
The company is expanding those changes to Food Lion’s 29 stores in Wilmington, which are currently being remodeled. The store remodels are expected to be complete in the third quarter. Food Lion won’t say which markets it will remodel next, but the company plans to remodel a total of 77 stores this year. That’s about 7 percent of the company’s total.
New training, more items
Food Lion will carry more varieties of items better tailored to each market as part of its strategy, the company said. The company is also expanding its lineup of store brand products and adding more items in popular areas.
The company has expanded its variety of Greek yogurt, for example, and added multi-packs of yogurt. Food Lion has also added more varieties of coffee and single-serve Keurig cup pods, spokeswoman Christy Phillip-Brown said. And Food Lion has added more varieties of frozen dinners.
To make room, the company has reduced its selections of some non-food items. For example, Food Lion will carry a reduced selection of automotive products and home air filters.
The company is also going to finish retraining its workforce by June, Food Lion said. The new approach will instruct employees on “putting the customer first and delivering on their expectations every day through new, customer-centric training.”
In a new advertising campaign that’s been in heavy rotation throughout Food Lion has deployed an actual food lion. In the ads, a laconic, mane-sporting feline offers his “two cents” about why shopping at Food Lion is a smart idea.
Food Lion finds itself in a tough place, said supermarket analyst Phil Lempert. The company has been pushed out of its spot as low-price leader in many cases by Walmart and Aldi, but doesn’t compete directly with retailers such as Harris Teeter and Publix for higher-end shoppers.
“They struggle with what they are on a consistent basis,” said Lempert. To stay relevant, he said the company has to figure out a way to carve its own niche. “There’s always gonna be somebody who’s cheaper, somebody who’s prettier, somebody who has more service.”
According to data from Chain Store Guide, which tracks retail sales, Walmart is the biggest grocery retailer in the 10-county Charlotte region, with 22.4 percent of the grocery market.
Harris Teeter is No. 2, with 20.4 percent, and Food Lion is No. 3, with 18.7 percent.
Newlands Campbell said the store’s new logo will help Food Lion define itself. The new logo shows Food Lion’s traditional lion, now black, in the middle of the words “Food Lion.” The old logo featured the lion, in blue, above the words “Food Lion.”
“With our new logo, we have an opportunity to show our customers that we’re fresh, while remaining true to our legacy of low prices,” she said.